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COA: will can be admitted in Indiana

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Relying on the majority rule, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a man’s will that was denied probate in Illinois could be admitted in Indiana to deal with real property located here.

Florian Latek owned his family’s farm in Porter County, but lived in Chicago and also owned real and personal property in Illinois. He executed a will, but he did not have it notarized. An Illinois court denied probate of Latek’s will because it failed to conform with Illinois’ self-proving requirements and because the witness’ signatures couldn’t be validated by testimony or by a formal attestation clause as required by Illinois law. His real and personal property in Illinois has since been distributed.

Nicholas Grapsas, the Illinois public administrator of Latek’s estate, challenged the admission and probate of the will in Indiana court concerning the Indiana property. Grapsas argued that because the Illinois court had already determined the will was invalid under Illinois law, Indiana was precluded under the doctrines of res judicata and full faith and credit from deciding the same issue.

On interlocutory appeal in In the Matter of the Estate of Florian T. Latek; Nicholas G. Grapsas, et al. v. Gerald Ronneau, No. 64A05-1103-ES-112, the COA found the majority rule – which provides that title to and disposition of real estate either by deed or will is governed by the law of the state where the land is situated – to be applicable. The judges cited cases from outside of Indiana as well as an Indiana Supreme Court case from 1897 that stated Indiana will follow the majority rule.

“We therefore conclude that under the majority rule, the Illinois Court’s denial of Latek’s Will to probate because it failed to comply with Illinois’s statutory execution requirements has no effect on the subsequent admission and probate of Latek’s Will in Indiana as it concerns the disposition of real property located in Indiana. Principles of res judicata and full faith and credit have no application in matters involving probate and title to realty,” wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

The appellate court also found the Indiana trial court did not abuse its discretion in appointing James Bozik, Latek’s attorney, as personal representative of Latek’s estate.

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